What happens when the Jumbotron moment ends?

Leadership is about motivation and vision. Motivation includes follow-up and follow through. It is also about doing what’s right for the organization rather than for personal or financial gain.

ESPN ran a heartfelt feature last month showing professional sports teams surprising families with the return of a relative who had been serving overseas. I love the one where a little girl throws out the first pitch to a masked catcher, who then removes his headgear. Turns out the catcher is her dad, just home from Afghanistan, and the two share a moving reunion somewhere between the pitcher’s mound and home plate.

I love how these returns are becoming part of our sporting culture, and I believe it helps to connect the 99% of America who hasn’t served with the 1% who currently are. That’s a fantastic and much-needed thing. But could it be better? Of course.

What happens after the joyful reunion is played on the Jumbotron? How can the teams maintain their leadership and show that they care? It’s a leadership moment, an opportunity to move from management and apply motivation and direct leadership.

Let’s start with the person who brought the veteran there in the first place. That person has a huge network of support. Be a mentor. Introduce the veteran to people in an appropriate network who can help with training for a new position. Show continuous care, not just a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

I’d also like to see the sports team themselves take this a step further and actually stay connected to these returning veterans and their families. Let them use the gyms on off days to workout. Provide them with a mentor from the coaching/training staff. Each team has a community relations representative. Ask that person to periodically check in with the returning service member to see what more can be done. That one phone call could be a lifeline for a veteran and his/her family.


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